When Wi-Fi first hit the market in the early 2000s, it sent shockwaves throughout the world of tech. The first Wi-Fi network paved the way for widespread, constant connectivity that we see today, and changed the way we live our lives forever.
But the introduction of Wi-Fi was just one small step on a towering ladder of innovation we continue to climb. Traditional Wi-Fi networks are still commonplace but are being replaced by high-powered mesh systems with a huge range of advantages.
Still, there are a lot of question marks floating around the idea of mesh networks—most people are still trying to figure out the basics of Wi-Fi in the first place. From modems to range extenders, internet connection, dead zones, Wi-Fi coverage, and whole home Wi-Fi systems, there’s a lot to understand and learn.
We don’t blame you if you need to play some catch-up in the Wi-Fi department, because things move so rapidly and another innovation is always waiting right around the corner (now there are smart home devices that can be controlled through your Wi-Fi system).
That’s why we’re taking this opportunity to compile all the relevant info on mesh Wi-Fi routers, from the technology that powers to the user experience that you can expect in your home or workplace environment.
We’ll also walk you through a brief buyer’s guide to help you find the best Wi-Fi routers for your needs, easy setup, and explain which features are a must-have when upgrading to this next-level technology. Mesh routers will make you pack up your old router and never look back!
We get it—Wi-Fi isn’t always easy to understand. But we’re here to spell things out, one step at a time so that you have the knowledge and confidence you need to master this technology— wherever you need it most, from your backyard to every nook and cranny in a larger home. Let’s get into it!
If you’re starting from square one on the subject of mesh routers, you’re in the right place.
The first step to understanding the magic of this technology is to start with an idea of how routers work in general.
Without going into a full engineering lesson, recognize that the router is the gateway to the internet to which all your favorite devices must connect in order to function.
That’s right, every laptop, desktop, phone, and tablet must connect to the network via your router, which is attached via ethernet cable to the wall. This is how you get whole home Wi-Fi.
When devices connect to the router, it uses radio frequencies to transmit information at rapid speeds from point A to point B. That’s how you do work on cloud platforms, stream your favorite shows, chat on video, and do everything else to stay connected.
Mesh routers are simply a type of router designed to cover more ground, increase performance, and offer a range of other features that traditional routers cannot provide. In a way, they act as a Wi-Fi extender without the extra step.
The core functionality is the same, but you get so much more thanks to proprietary technology that we’ll explain further as we move on.
Here’s the main way mesh routers stand out from the rest— in their configuration.
While standard routers offer a single, central hub for connecting devices, mesh routers can be set up throughout a much broader physical space, creating a vast network that maintains high levels of performance and reliability with a strong Wi-Fi signal.
This is accomplished through the use of satellite units, which function as nodes on a network and extend the transmission of the signal far beyond what can be done by a single, standard router.
That’s why you’ll see multiple units contained in a single product when shopping around for mesh routers. Big networks need a team! These units interact with one another to create the “mesh” effect that increases and amplifies connectivity in a home, workspace, or office building.
Keep in mind that these nodes are engineered for multi-tiered communication with other nodes on the network, as well as the devices they serve.
In other words, the nodes in a mesh network are constantly sending information back and forth to the central hub (typically on 5Ghz bands) while simultaneously keeping a strong connection with any devices in the vicinity (via 2.4Ghz signals).
The result is a powerful cloud of connectivity that ensures a high level of performance and stability, balancing the complex connections of multiple devices throughout a space.
In addition to this innovative configuration, mesh routers benefit from dynamic routing capabilities, meaning that they direct information between nodes depending on the workloads they process at a given time.
Picture this: the whole family is in one room using multiple devices at once. The network resources are directed to that one area, responding to the increased number of requests for data in that particular space.
But when everyone heads their separate ways for the evening to different corners of the home, Wi-Fi mesh routers will recognize the need to route information to those external nodes, ensuring the connectivity remains smooth and stable the entire time. Pretty smart!
What’s most amazing about dynamic routing is that it happens without any input from administrators and occurs automatically.
No interruptions, no bottlenecks, no changing networks when entering another area—it’s seamless and simple for everyone.
You don’t have to go back in time very far to remember a time before dynamic routing, and we certainly take it for granted now. Mesh networks have streamlined home WiFi with incredible feats of engineering that benefit us all.
Since mesh routers are generally designed with proprietary technology, they can only communicate with one another are not compatible with router or extender products from other manufacturers.
This not only simplifies things from a configuration standpoint but also means that mesh routers can be programmed with unique features and applications. This just wasn’t possible with hybrid networks of the past, unless you were a certified IT wizard.
The result is a wider range of capabilities that may be of interest to consumers, whether it’s improved security, top-down network controls, better visibility into network performance, or simply the quick and automatic upgrade of software without user involvement.
For everyday internet users like families or small businesses, this can be a major benefit. As we’ll discuss later, mesh routers give you levels of insight and control that were never before possible with standard network setups.
We recommend looking into these extra features if you are amid the shopping process for a mesh router or network system.
We’ve touched on the main concepts that make mesh routers work, and you’ve probably gathered some reasons why they’re so popular!
Now, let’s drill down into the practical advantages of mesh routers, complete with real-life examples that you can relate to your own experience with WiFi networks.
What do we mean when we talk about the performance of a WiFi network?
The main metrics we use to track performance tend to be speed (the rate of data transfer measured in megabits per second or Mbps) and stability, or the tendency for the network to stay up and running without drops in speed, outages, or bottlenecks.
In both of these key categories of performance, mesh routers do a phenomenal job, allowing you to get your money’s worth when paying your internet bill each month.
Even an entry-level router (like the Gryphon Guardian) allows for speeds up to 550Mbps, far outpacing the national average download speed for most regions.
In terms of stability, the dual-band radios ensure that bottlenecks don’t take place when more devices are connected, especially when multiple units are coordinated over a larger space.
But aside from these main metrics, you’ve also got to consider coverage as an important aspect of your WiFi network. After all, you never know where you might end up with your laptop or phone, and the last thing you want is to hit a dreaded dead spot in the middle of an important call.
Coverage is where mesh routers really shine, and even smaller routers like the Guardian feature up to 1,8000 square feet of coverage with a single unit. Simply add more units and multiply that range by two or three times.
Of course, there are larger, more powerful routers available, capable of speeds up to 1.3 Gbps and a coverage range of up to 3,000 square feet. If you’ve got dozens of devices to manage at a time over a large, multi-level space, consider going big with a next-level Gryphon AX mesh router setup, allowing for whole home WiFi and a strong WiFi signal throughout the home or building.
Let’s round up the aspects of performance that matter most when looking at mesh routers:
Speed – The rate of data transfer to support downloads, uploads, streaming, etc.
Stability – The reliability of the network and absence of bottlenecks, outages, speed variation
Coverage – The total reach of the network without compromise on speed or stability
Check those three boxes and you’ve got a solid core mesh router. Satellite units only serve to expand the range and ensure the network remains strong throughout your designated area.
It’s fun to boast about performance and see how much horsepower you can squeeze from your mesh routers, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle when looking at the overall technology and its full feature set.
Convenience is a factor not to be ignored when accounting for the advantages that mesh routers bring to the table. This is especially true in an era when people expect plug-and-play functionality from their tech, and time is of the essence when setting up new networks.
Think back for a moment about your past experiences with unboxing routers and trying to configure them from scratch. If you’ve dealt with extenders, boosters, and other additions, you may not want to relive those memories at all.
Whether you’re the head of a household or trying to get a small business off the ground, you know how much of a hassle it can be to set up a network, even if you consider yourself to be tech-savvy.
With mesh routers, the out-of-the-box setup process could not be more simple and straightforward. The units are fully built, the instructions are clear, and everything is ready for 100% functionality shortly after plugging in the power cords.
No exaggeration—most mesh WiFi systems are completely configured and operational in around 10 minutes. No extra input is needed to make adjustments or upgrades from then on.
Want to get more coverage in your converted garage or attic office? Just plug an extra unit into the wall where you need it most, and it’s added automatically.
Want to increase the signal by the pool by adding a unit to the garden shed? Plug and play; simple as that. That signal will be just as strong as in your living room.
Never before has it been easier or more intuitive to create a high-powered network with minimal effort or technical know-how. Literally, anyone can do it, and the possibilities are endless.
As the world continues to move in a digital direction, so do issues related to crime, fraud, and other security threats.
You want to protect yourself, your family, and your business from every conceivable angle online, and that means approaching cybersecurity from a network level.
Protecting individual devices is one thing, and it’s better than nothing. Passwords and anti-virus software can offer a basic level of protection in most cases.
But as your home, family, and livelihood become more reliant on the web, you just don’t want to take any extra risks if you can help it.
Only the best mesh routers offer complete protection for all your connected devices, which includes everything from your workstation and phone to your thermostat and security cameras.
On top of stellar security, the visibility and control you have over your mesh routers is another ingenious advantage.
If you’ve got kids in the house, we don’t need to tell you how much time they spend on phones, tablets, and gaming consoles. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to monitor their activity, set parental controls, and cut off access to the web when it’s time for dinner or bed?
Non-parents might find it a bit extreme, but this is the level of control that most modern parents want when it comes to managing technology for their children.
On one level, it’s a matter of security and safety. On another level, it’s about balancing real life, screen time, and family time in a reasonable way.
Even if you don’t feel the immediate need for security and control over your network, these are features you definitely want to have moving forward in an increasingly connected world.
We’ve covered all the key points on why mesh routers are so powerful and popular. But how do mesh routers stack up against other types of routers and WiFi setups?
In this section, we’re doing head-to-head matchups between mesh routers and alternatives you may consider as you browse your options.
With all this talk about mesh routers, you may have forgotten about traditional routers still in use by the majority of home internet users around the world.
It’s a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison when putting these two types of routers head to head, but it’s worth analyzing if you’ve got both options on the table.
Traditional routers have the advantage of generally being more affordable, and if you’ve got an apartment or condo under 1,500 square feet, it’s generally your best bet.
However, if you plan to upgrade to a bigger home or need dozens of devices connected in a small space (think a coffee shop business or office) then mesh is certainly the way to go.
Keep in mind that top-range mesh routers like the ones from Gryphon Connect can be purchased and function in the sense of traditional routers, making it an easy decision from the start.
Simply keep the hardware and add more units if you want to expand your coverage or flesh out your Internet of Things communication across smart devices and appliances.
If you find that traditional routers aren’t getting the job done in terms of coverage and range of access, you may look into WiFi extenders or boosters as add-ons to your standard network.
These are the products that came on the market prior to the rise of mesh network technology, but nowadays, they are showing their age in a number of ways.
Extenders function in a fundamentally different way from mesh routers. Rather than extending the network with 100% functionality and stability, extenders work by rebroadcasting the existing network with only a portion of the capacity.
This means that when you connect to an extender in a distant corner of your home or office, you’re only getting a fraction of the speed that you’ve come to expect from your network, and performance is heavily compromised.
There is also the issue of switching points of access when dealing with extenders and boosters, which requires manual network changes from devices as you navigate your space. This presents a serious roadblock that can interrupt your experience when streaming, downloading, or just having a conversation on video chat.
In other words, mesh routers accomplish what extenders set out to do from the beginning, with key advantages in performance, convenience, and overall coverage. Once you experience mesh networks, there’s no going back to traditional routers and extenders!
Perhaps you’ve forgotten about access points, but they’re still a prominent part of many enterprise-level networks and bigger home setups.
Access points are useful for extending the coverage of a traditional router without compromising performance, but they are not WiFi components in the truest sense. That’s because access points require ethernet connectivity to secure and stabilize the connection. It’s a helpful network addition, but it’s not 100% Wi-Fi.
If cable management isn’t a problem for you, access points are an inexpensive and reliable way to cover the ground with your network. However, if real Wi-Fi matters to you and your family, access points just don’t deliver the same level of flexibility and convenience.
By now, you should have an idea whether you can benefit from a mesh router, or if a traditional router is sufficient for your needs.
Here are some simple questions you can answer to reach a conclusion and make a smart pick.
If dead spots and choppy connections plague your network—especially in far corners of your home like bedrooms, offices, or bathrooms— mesh routers can help.
Take a minute to count all the devices currently connected to your network. There are likely more than you think!
If your count exceeds 20 devices or you expect to grow that number in the near future, consider planning ahead with a mesh router and a satellite unit to keep things running smooth.
Close encounters with cyber theft, fraud, or intrusion can be jarring. An extra layer of security from a mesh router at the network level can give you the peace of mind you need.
The challenges of digital parenting are real, and you may want some extra visibility into browsing behavior and device use as your kids grow up.
Find a mesh router with strong parental controls to take the power back and leave nothing to chance.
If you’re ready to shop for a mesh router, be sure to hit each point on the following checklist before making a purchase.
You shouldn’t need an IT degree to set up your mesh router and satellite units. Learn about the setup process and make sure it’s quick and easy.
Mesh routers should be blazing fast and stable no matter where you are. These are the performance metrics that matter most, so don’t settle for less.
Network security is no joke, and you can’t afford to take shortcuts. Find a mesh router system with built-in security features for you and your family.
As a parent, you call the shots on how kids use their devices and apps. Rather than setting up expensive extra apps, control everything from a single network-level app.
WiFi 6 is the latest protocol for fast, efficient connections to all your devices. Be ready for the next generation of the internet with a mesh router built for Wi-Fi 6 and beyond.
Ever thought you needed that much information about mesh routers? We’ve given you a wealth of knowledge about this powerful technology, from the basics and benefits to specific scenarios you may encounter in real life.
We also told you exactly what to look for when shopping for a mesh router system, so you’ve got more than enough info to get started.
Keep this page bookmarked and come back as you navigate the wide world of Wi-Fi!
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With over 20 years of experience in networking technology and security, the Gryphon co-founders led the team that invented the revolutionary MiFi mobile hotspot technology. As much as we appreciate the benefits and convenience of being connected, we also deeply understand the associated threats.
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